Thursday, March 3, 2011

Your 1st Big Break (and other moments not to be terrified of)


NOTE: This post is for relatively new crafters and anyone who's recovering from a 'break'.

Selling recycled supplies is new for me, but I've been making jewellery since I was a teenager. I'm a small fry, so I had to make bracelets and chokers myself if I wanted something to fit properly. (My ring finger is 3&1/4 and my shoe size is 4, just to give you a clearer idea.) I also learned to alter professionally made jewellery so that gifts from friends and family didn't always have to go back.

If any of my jewellery, be it handmade or altered, ever broke the only consequence was a little irritation on my part, and possibly a sense of loss if I was really attached to the piece.

However, since I began making jewellery for everyone else, I had to adjust more than just my sizing strategies. I needed to step up my skills to make sure that nothing I exchanged for money (another art lover's hard-earned precious money) would ever, ever break.

Snaps, Cracks & Pops

I'm also a realist. Part of me knew that, statistically, eventually, something I made with love and crafted with care would snap, crack, or pop. I started out with the 'drop-it-on-the-floor' test to ensure that a piece was sturdy. Little did I know the paces that delicate jewellery might be put through. I now know my jewellery can and will do battle with seatbelt straps, team sports, hot tubs, and all kinds of places I myself would never take something delicate or handmade, let alone both.

As jewellery is inherently fragile and handmade jewellery doubly so, I had to come to terms with two things: A) I would have to relax and B) breaks will happen because life is unpredictable (especially when you're no longer in the picture to mother your customers).

Over the last 2 years, I've been aware of breaks to a butterfly brooch (lost a wing), a gear ring (separated from it's adjustable base), a statement collage (lost a plastic flower), and most recently, a sprocket lapel pin (sprocket separated from the pin base).

Because HG Wells does not live in my house and I do not otherwise have access to a time machine, the only thing I can do when one of my creations breaks is to take a deep breath and fix it.

A Deep Breath Works Well

Depending on what you make, 'fixing it' might mean repair, replacement, refund, discount, or other solution you work out with your customer. Common sense and Etsy's very helpful guides and forums are an excellent resource.

Like reading this blog post, browsing through the other conversations and reading the advice seasoned Etsy sellers are sharing will help you realize that it happens to everyone.

Part of what makes handmade self-employment so intimidating is that many of us come into it through a twist or turn in life's path. Although some sellers are expertly trained artisans, many of us are just crafty types who've become obsessed with some combination of the handmade lifestyle, self-employment, a genre of art – the list goes on.

Remember that even the most skilled artist will have a technical issue from time-to-time. Do you want to walk away from your business, just because it won't always be perfect? I certainly don't. It's how you deal with the aftermath of a break or any other dissatisfaction that makes you a professional.

Have you ever made something that broke? Were you mortified? Tell me about it.

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